Every now and then, I am reminded of Alex Turner’s immortal words at the beginning of Arctic Monkeys’ video for I Bet You Look Good: “don’t believe the hype.” Since joining the book community on Twitter, I have heard huge amounts of chat about certain books; in some cases, like Truthwitch, the hype and almost aggressive online marketing have put me off, but, in others, I have fallen under the hype-spell and read the book concerned. And this is how we come to The Girl from Everywhere.
I have been tweeting about books since September 2015, and I am pretty sure that Heidi Heilig’s book has been all over Twitter since then, despite not being out until March in the UK. I have been simultaneously entranced by the US cover and put off by the UK one, and I feel like I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t aware of The Girl from Everywhere.
For all these reasons, I find it difficult to say useful things about the book. On the one hand, it is original, entertaining and, at times, exciting. On the other, it drags a bit in the middle and, even by the end, my questions about how the time travel aspect of the story worked hadn’t been answered. I almost feel like I’ve been subjected to some kind of mind control process, preventing me from coming up with my own opinion on a book which the bookish world seems to have already made up its mind about.
So, to begin with the good things, The Girl from Everywhere takes in multiple time periods and various global locations, all thanks to a unique time travel concept and a cool-sounding ship. The relationship between the main character and narrator, Nix, and her father, Slate is fascinating; the whole thrust of the novel is that Slate is obsessed with traveling back in time to prevent the death of Nix’s mother, but nobody seems sure how this will impact on Nix and, you know, whether she’ll still be alive if his plan works. The diversity of the rest of the characters has been widely and rightfully praised in the reviews I’ve read, and the friendship between Nix and Kashmir is a high point.
My problem with The Girl from Everywhere lies mainly in the time travel element of the story. Slate can navigate his ship to any time and place, as long as he has a map of the place produced during the time he wants to visit, so he is always seeking a map of Honolulu in 18something, because this will enable him, in theory, to save his lost love. This is all fine. But, if they can only travel to eras for which they have a map, how can they go into the future? There’s a part of the book which takes place in New York in 2016, and I’m pretty sure this isn’t possible within the time travel parameters set out in the book. I don’t have a great record with understanding time travel, but I do have a massive brain; if I am missing something and have just failed to understand, I’m prepared to accept that, but I don’t think that’s what’s going on.
I wish I hadn’t been subjected to so much pre-reading hype about this book. I don’t think of myself as particularly suggestible, and if people tell me what to think, I usually think the opposite just to be awkward. But I can’t help but feel that my experience of The Girl from Everywhere was ruined somewhat by the amount of hype it received. This is also probably the first time I’ve felt genuinely guilty about not enjoying a book, because of goddamn Twitter; Heidi Heilig seems extremely nice and is very supportive of other writers on social media, and this all made me want to love The Girl from Everywhere, but I just didn’t. Personally, I would like to engage Slate’s method of time travel, procure a map from August 2015 and sail back to a time when I hadn’t heard of this book, so I could enjoy it on its own merits, rather than being told what to think for five months before even getting my hands on it.